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Creepypastas are horror-related legends or images that have been copied and pasted around the Internet.[1][2][3] These Internet entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories intended to scare readers. They include gruesome tales of murder, suicide, and otherworldly occurrences. According to Time magazine, the genre had its peak audience in 2010 when it was covered by The New York Times.[1]

In the mainstream media, creepypastas relating to the fictitious Slender Man character came to public attention after the 2014 "Slender Man stabbing", in which a 12-year-old girl from Waukesha, Wisconsin was stabbed by two of her friends; the perpetrators claimed they "wanted to prove the Slender Man skeptics" wrong.[1][4][5] After the murder attempt, some creepypasta website administrators made statements reminding readers of the "line between fiction and reality".[1]

Other notable creepypasta stories include "Jeff the Killer" and "Ted the Caver".[1][6][7] In May 2015, Machinima Inc. announced plans for a live action web series curated by Clive Barker, titled Clive Barker's Creepy Pasta.[8]

History

The exact origins of creepypasta are unknown. Early creepypastas were usually written anonymously and routinely re-posted, making the history of the genre difficult to study.[9] Jessica Roy, writing for Time, argued that creepypastas emerged in the 1990s when the text of chain emails was reposted on Internet forums and Usenet groups.[1] Aja Romano, writing for the Daily Dot, stated that Ted the Caver was arguably the earliest example of creepypasta. The story, posted on Angelfire in 2001, was written in the first person from the perspective of Ted as he and several friends explored an increasingly frightening cave system.[10]

Many early creepypastas consisted of rituals, personal anecdotes and urban legends such as Polybius and Bunny Man.[9] Darcie Nadel, writing for TurboNews, argued that these early creepypastas had to be somewhat believable and realistic to be re-posted.[9] Many of the earliest creepypastas were created on the /x/ board of 4chan, which focused on the paranormal.[9][11]

Major dedicated creepypasta websites started to emerge in the late 2000s to early 2010s: Creepypasta.com was created in 2008,[9] while the Creepypasta Wiki and r/NoSleep (a Reddit forum, or subreddit) were both created in 2010.[12][13] The websites created a permanent archive of creepypasta, which profoundly impacted the genre. Many authors started using creepypasta characters in their own stories, which resulted in the development of continuities encompassing numerous works.[9]

The definition of creepypasta has expanded over time to include most horror stories written on the Internet.[14] Over time, authorship has become increasingly important: many creepypastas are written by named authors rather than by anonymous individuals.[14] Many of these authors attempt to achieve notice through their creepypasta.[9] The copying and pasting of creepypastas has become less common over time; doing so is seen as intellectual theft by many members of the creepypasta community.[14][9]

Etymology

Creepypasta is a portmanteau of the words creepy and copypasta. Copypasta denotes viral, copied and pasted text; the term was coined on the imageboard 4chan around 2006.[1]

Examples of creepypastas

Slender Man

Slender Man is a thin, tall humanoid with no distinguishable facial features, who wears a trademark black suit. The character originated in a 2009 SomethingAwful Photoshop competition, before later being featured as a main antagonist in the Marble Hornets alternate reality game. According to most stories, he targets children. The legend also caused a controversy with the Slender Man stabbing in 2014.

Jeff the Killer

 
An image of Jeff the Killer

"Jeff the Killer" is a story accompanied by an image of the title character. In the story, a teenager named Jeff is on his way to school with his younger brother when they are attacked by a group of bullies. Jeff defends himself and his brother, and leaves the assailants lying in the street beaten, their hands and arms broken. After his brother claims he injured the bullies and is arrested, Jeff spends several days distraught, before going to a birthday party in the neighbourhood where he is attacked by the bullies again. Although he manages to kill all of the assailants, he is severely burned during the confrontation after being set on fire. During a stay at the hospital, Jeff realizes that he enjoys harming people, and goes insane. The night after he is discharged, he slices his face, leaving a scar in the shape of a smile, and cuts off his eyelids, so that he will never sleep. He then murders his parents and brother, whispering "go to sleep" while killing his sibling. He becomes a serial killer who sneaks into houses at night and whispers "go to sleep" to his victims before killing them.[15]

According to a 2013 article, the original image of Jeff the Killer may be an extensively edited picture of a girl who allegedly completed suicide in the fall of 2008.[16]

Ted the Caver

"Ted the Caver" began as an Angelfire website in early 2001 that documented the adventures of a man and his friends as they explored a local cave. The story is in the format of a series of blog posts. As the explorers move further into the cave, strange hieroglyphs and winds are encountered. In a final blog post, Ted writes that he and his companions would be bringing a gun into the cave after experiencing a series of nightmares and hallucinations. The blog has not been updated since the final post.[10]

In 2013, an independent film adaptation of the story was released, called Living Dark: the Story of Ted the Caver.[17]

Penpal

Penpal is a six-part creepypasta novel by Dathan Auerbach. The original stories were published on reddit, and were collected as a self-published paperback in 2012.[18]

_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9

"_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9" is the screen name of an anonymous writer of science fiction horror short fiction on the social news website Reddit. The work attracted media attention following its publication beginning in April 2016.[19]

Lost episodes

A "lost episode" creepypasta generally concerns a television episode or series, or a film, which was apparently pulled from syndication due to violent or otherwise disturbing content.[citation needed]

Candle Cove

"Candle Cove" is a story by Kris Straub written in the format of an online forum thread in which people reminisce about a half-remembered children's television series from the 1970s. The posters share memories of the creepy puppets from the series, and discuss nightmares that resulted from watching certain episodes (such as those involving a villain called the Skin-Taker, and one that had no dialogue other than screaming). One poster then asks their mother about the series, and is told that the mother just used to tune the television to static, which the child would watch for thirty minutes.

Syfy announced a television drama based on the story in 2015, adapted by Max Landis.[20] The story makes up the first season of Channel Zero, which premiered on October 11, 2016.[21]

Suicidemouse.avi

"Suicidemouse.avi" is a nine-minute Mickey Mouse cartoon uploaded to YouTube in 2009.[22] It depicts Mickey walking down a street. As the video progresses, screams and cries are heard in the background, the buildings become more dilapidated, and Mickey begins sneering.[23]

Dead Bart (7g06)

"Dead Bart" features the Simpson family going on a plane trip together, but while being his usual, mischievous self, Bart ends up breaking a window on the plane and getting sucked out, falling to his death. After an apparently very realistic view of his corpse, the show's second act features a surreal take on the Simpson family's grief. Act three opens with a title card saying one year has passed. Homer, Marge, and Lisa are skeletally thin, and still sitting at the table. There is no sign of Maggie or the pets. They decide to visit Bart's grave. Springfield is completely deserted, and as they walk to the cemetery the houses become more and more decrepit. They all looked abandoned. When they get to the grave, Bart's body is just lying in front of his tombstone, looking just like it did at the end of act one. The family starts crying again. Eventually they stop, and just stare at Bart's body. The camera zooms in on Homer's face. According to summaries, Homer tells a joke at this part.[24]

Squidward's Suicide

The full story is told from the perspective of a person who interned at Nickelodeon Studios during 2005 as an animation student. The student and some other coworkers received a tape to edit titled “Squidward’s Suicide” for the series SpongeBob SquarePants. The staff initially assumed was just an office prank. In the firsthand account, the video consists of Squidward forlornly sitting on a bed, while strange and upsetting noises play and become louder in the background. The scene is spliced with quick flashes of murdered children, each time the noises getting louder when cutting back to Squidward — now bearing red 'hyper realistic' eyes. Eventually, Squidward shoots himself after a detached, deep voice commands it, and that is the end of the video.[25]

The circulated image of red-eyed Squidward associated with this creepypasta was referenced by animators on the actual SpongeBob series when they included it in the season 12 episode "SpongeBob in Randomland."[26]

Video games

Ben Drowned

Created by Internet user Alex Hall (a.k.a. "Jadusable") "Ben Drowned" tells a story of a college student named Matt who buys a used copy of the video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask from an elderly man at a yard sale. Matt finds that the cartridge is haunted by the ghost of a boy named Ben, who drowned. After deleting Ben's savefile, Matt encounters disturbing glitches and scary messages such as "You shouldn't have done that ..." and "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" [27]

Lavender Town Syndrome

This legend purports that, shortly after the original Japanese release of the video games Pokémon Red and Green in 1996, there was an increase in the death rate amongst children aged 10–15. Children who had played the games reportedly screamed in terror at the sight of either of the games inserted into the Game Boy handheld console, and exhibited other erratic behavior, before committing suicide through methods such as hanging, jumping from heights, and creatively severe self-mutilation.[28] Supposedly, the suicides were connected to the eerie background music played in the fictional location of Lavender Town in the games. In the game's canon, Lavender Town is the site of the haunted Pokémon Tower, where numerous graves of Pokémon can be found.[29]

The legend alleges that children, besides being the primary players of the games, are more susceptible to the effects of the Lavender Town music, because it supposedly incorporates binaural beats and a high-pitched tone that adults cannot hear.[30] It has been speculated that the legend was inspired by an actual event in Japan in 1997 in which hundreds of television viewers experienced seizures due to a scene with flickering images in an episode of the Pokémon anime, titled "Dennō Senshi Porygon".[28][31]

NES Godzilla Creepypasta

"NES Godzilla Creepypasta" is a story written by Internet user Cosbydaf. It relates the tale of a character named Zach who plays an unusual copy of the Nintendo Entertainment System game Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!. As Zach progresses through the game, simple glitches begin to turn into entirely new content and new monsters, and eventually a malevolent, supernatural being by the name of Red reveals himself. As the mystery behind the nature of Red unravels, it is revealed that the demon has closer ties to Zach than he ever could have expected. The story concludes with Zach - having defeated Red during the final battle - selling the game on eBay, unable to bring himself to keep or destroy the mysterious cartridge.

A sequel to the story, dubbed Godzilla: Replay, is being written by the same author as the first, and five chapters have been completed so far. This story features a largely different cast of monsters, with Red's role as antagonist replaced by a demon named Warlock and his subordinates who represent the seven cardinal sins.

The story is often praised for its new approach to the traditional video game creepypasta formula,[citation needed] and for its extensive use of custom-made screenshots, depicting thousands of sprites created by the story's author. A fangame based on the story is being developed;[32] a demo was released in 2017.[33]

Toonstruck 2

Toonstruck 2 is a story revolving around the sequel to the video game Toonstruck, which was developed but not released due to the commercial flop of the first game.[34][35] The protagonist of the story, an adventure game geek named Dave, buys a rare copy of the game from a creepy man in a black raincoat; as he plays Toonstruck 2, its atmosphere becomes increasingly sinister, and the game begins to change the real world around him (the original Toonstruck was about a cartoon animator transported to the toon world through TV). The story alleges that Toonstruck 2 was based on art from the sketchbook of a mentally ill cartoon animator who murdered his boss, bought by one of Virgin Interactive's executives at a murderabilia auction, and the real reason for its cancellation was that its contents were too shocking.[36]

SVG's Christopher Gates wrote: "The incomplete storyline has proved to be fertile ground for fans, who seem more than happy to fill in the blanks… If Toonstruck had been finished, maybe it would've faded away. But it wasn't, and the mystery has kept Toonstruck fans engaged for over 20 years — and counting."[37]

Sonic.EXE

"Sonic.EXE" is a creepypasta created by user JC-the-Hyena. This story is concerning a teenager named Tom, who suffers from a series of supernatural delusions after playing a haunted ROM hack of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991). The story describes the details of the hack, which purportedly features gory and disturbing content.[38][citation needed] The story is well known for its poor quality and writing clichés, resulting in the story being taken down from the website itself and moved to the (now-defunct) Trollpasta Wiki. Common points of criticism involving the story revolve around its inconsistent pacing, reliance on gore and jumpscares, the protagonist's unrealistic responses to what they see, and the story's ending, in which the protagonist is apparently killed by a Sonic plush doll.

This creepypasta is the founder of ".EXE" genre of creepypastas; many stories have been produced which attempt to emulate or directly copy the formula set in Sonic.EXE.

Petscop

 
The title screen of the fictional game Petscop.

Petscop is a web series released on YouTube which purports to be a Let's Play of a "lost and unfinished" 1997 PlayStation video game of the same name. In the game, the player character must capture strange creatures known as "pets" by solving puzzles. However, after the narrator of the series enters a code on a note attached to the copy of the game he received, he is able to enter a strange, dark, and hidden section of the game: the Newmaker Plane and the depths below it.[39] Although the puzzles continue, the game's tone shifts dramatically, and numerous references to child abuse appear; Newmaker appears to refer to the murder of Candace Newmaker during rebirthing therapy.[40]

The series premiered on March 12, 2017.[39][41] It is not known whether it consists of animation or video from a playable game, or why the series was created.[40] Kotaku's Patricia Hernandez wrote: "If this is an internet story / game, then I am in awe over how elaborate it is."[40] For Alex Barron of The New Yorker, it is "the king of creepypasta".[39]

Polybius

An urban legend claims that in 1981, an arcade cabinet called Polybius caused nightmares and hallucinations in players, leading at least one person to suicide. Several people supposedly became anti-gaming activists, after playing Polybius.[42][43] One of the oldest urban legends regarding video games, Polybius has entered popular culture, and numerous fangames exist as attempts to recreate the game from numerous accounts of its nature.

Adaptations

Each season of the American television series Channel Zero is based on a different creepypasta.

A feature film called The Sleep Experiment which is based on the creepypasta "The Russian Sleep Experiment" is scheduled to be released in 2019.[44]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Roy, Jessica (3 June 2014). "Behind Creepypasta, the Internet Community That Allegedly Spread a Killer Meme". Time. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  2. ^ Considine, Austin (12 November 2010). "Bored at Work? Try Creepypasta, or Web Scares". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  3. ^ Henriksen, Line (17 Dec 2013). "Here be monsters: a choreomaniac's companion to the danse macabre". Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. 23 (3): 414–423. doi:10.1080/0740770X.2013.857082.
  4. ^ Fernando Alfonso III (August 2, 2013). "4chan hunts down the origins of an Internet horror legend". Daily Dot.
  5. ^ Dewey, Caitlin (6 June 2014). "The complete, terrifying history of 'Slender Man', the Internet meme that compelled two 12-year-olds to stab their friend". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Who is "Jeff the Killer"? And is his picture haunted by a real death?". io9. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  7. ^ Roncero-Menendez, Sara; Piedra, Xavier (September 18, 2018). "17 terrifying creepypastas guaranteed to keep you up at night". Mashable. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Rife, Katie (5 May 2015). "Machinima announces web series from Clive Barker, Bruce Timm, RoboCop, and more". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Nadel, Darcie (1 November 2016). "A Brief History of Creepypasta". TurboFuture. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b Romano, Aja (31 October 2012). "The definitive guide to creepypasta—the Internet's urban legends". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  11. ^ Shira Chess (14 October 2016). Sinister Clown Sightings Are a Manifestation of Fear. New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  12. ^ ‘Slender Man’ Cited in Stabbing Is a Ghoul for the Internet Age. NBC News. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  13. ^ Bojalad, Alec (22 January 2017). "Beware the Creepypasta: Scary Storytelling in the Internet Age". Den of Geek. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Peters, Lucia (25 December 2015). "What Is Creepypasta? Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Internet's Spookiest Stories". Bustle. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Creepypasta – Jeff the Killer". 12 August 2012.
  16. ^ "Jeff the Killer: 4chan Hunts Down the Origins of an Internet Horror Legend". The Daily Dot. 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  17. ^ Bencic, Sandra. "The Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver (2013)". AllMovie. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  18. ^ Barone, Matt (22 February 2013). ""Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist". Complex.
  19. ^ Alexander, Leigh (5 May 2016). "_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9: the mysterious tale terrifying Reddit". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  20. ^ Hughes, William (30 June 2015). "Max Landis to adapt popular creepypasta Candle Cove for Syfy". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  21. ^ Logan, Alex (15 September 2016). "How SyFy Farmed 'Creepypasta' for New Horror Series 'Channel Zero'". Yahoo! TV. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  22. ^ https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/suicide-mouse
  23. ^ Burkart, Gregory (11 October 2016). "A Closer Look at Suicide Mouse". BlumHouse. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  24. ^ Jackson, Matthew (29 August 2013). "Is there a really a long lost Simpsons episode where Bart dies?". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  25. ^ Plafke, James (31 October 2013). "The 4 scariest, most believable stories on the internet - Geek.com". Geek.com. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  26. ^ Hughes, William (21 September 2019). "Yep, SpongeBob just directly referenced a classic creepypasta about Squidward killing himself". The AV Club. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  27. ^ Hill, Mark (25 February 2016). "The lingering appeal of Pokémon's greatest ghost story". Kill Screen.
  28. ^ a b Hernandez, Patricia (31 October 2016). "Pokémon's Creepy Lavender Town Myth, Explained". Kotaku. Retrieved 13 December 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  29. ^ Roncero-Menendez, Sars (12 October 2013). "The 10 Most Bizarre Pokémon Fan Theories". Mashable. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  30. ^ Oxford, Nadia (1 November 2016). "What is Pokemon's Lavender Town Syndrome?". Lifewire. Retrieved 13 December 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  31. ^ Wudunn, Sheryl (18 December 1997). "TV Cartoon's Flashes Send 700 Japanese Into Seizures". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  32. ^ Hernandez, Patricia. "NES Horror Legend Is Turning Into A Real Game". Kotaku. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  33. ^ "[Godzilla Creepypasta] 0.0.1 (DEMO)". Allone Works. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  34. ^ Devore, Jordan (7 August 2010). "'Tremendous fan support' could mean Toonstruck 2". Destructoid. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  35. ^ "Whatever happened to the Toonstruck sequel?". The Space Quest Historian. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  36. ^ "Toonstruck 2- Creepypasta". YouTube. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  37. ^ Gates, Christopher. "Gaming bombs that somehow became cult classics". SVG. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  38. ^ Sullivan, Lucas. "GamesRadar Plays: Sonic.EXE". GamesRadar. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  39. ^ a b c Barron, Alex (31 August 2017). ""Petscop," the Creepy YouTube Series That Confounded Gamers on Reddit". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  40. ^ a b c Hernandez, Patricia (21 April 2017). "People Are Trying To Find The Truth About A Creepy 'Unfinished' PlayStation Game". Kotaku. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  41. ^ "Petscop". YouTube. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  42. ^ McGee, Maxwell; Cooper, Hollander (9 August 2017). "Gaming's creepiest urban legends to make sure you don't sleep tonight". Games Radar. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  43. ^ Brown, Stuart. "Polybius: The Video Game that Doesn't Exist." YouTube. Screen name "Ahoy." 8 September 2017. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7X6Yeydgyg.
  44. ^ l Love Limerick, John Farrelly Set to Release Debut Feature Film, ‘The Sleep Experiment’ February 22, 2019

External links